LDP/Laboratory Dance Project
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
July 30, 2011
Are you happy to see me? Photo by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Jacob’s Pillow.
How does a modern dance company heavily reliant on a martial arts and hip hop vocabulary avoid a preponderance of choreographic images weighted in conflict? When the company is composed solely of male dancers, as is the case with South Korea’s LDP/Laboratory Dance Project, the challenge becomes formidable. In their debut performance at the Pillow, LDP performed three works by three choreographers that exposed both the potential and the risks of such a predicament.
In Are you happy to see me? (2005) Mi Sook Jeon, the only female on the program, skillfully incorporated acrobatics into a broader investigation of group interaction among six men in long blue skirts and gauzy shirts. Formal spatial structures, mirrored in Jung Wha Kim’s geometric lighting designs and in Jun Kim’s suspended rectangle of torn metal screening, offset idiosyncratic gestural accumulations. The dancers’ arms, as if extended in greeting, abruptly retracted and twisted, leading their bodies into contorted configurations. Each move, however small or large, was done with full commitment and strength, precisely etched in space and time. The striking contrast was a compelling solo for Chang Ho Shin, the company’s director, who represented something of an outsider. All tension released, his body flowed into and out of the floor like quicksilver. Each of the other dancers took a turn at transporting Shin’s upright but passive body, side to side across the stage. Are you happy to see me? ended as it began, in a tortuous solo for Dongkyu Kim. This time, repeating the initiating gesture, he tentatively extended his arm out to the audience and held it there in the dimming spotlight.
Company member Insoo Lee’s duet, Modern Feeling (2008), gave Jinyook Ryu and Lee opportunities to show off their martial arts skills. Their relationship veered from the mischievous to the treacherous but within a dramatic framework that was rather flimsy.
(2003), choreographed by Shin and considered the company’s signature work, brought all eight dancers to the stage one at a time. They rhythmically slapped their chests and thumped their feet, energizing the audience as they launched into audaciously repetitive foot patterns complemented by wildly animated arms. These culminated in explosive bursts of acrobatic fireworks. Jackets removed, shirts unbuttoned and then tossed into the air, the dancers eventually unleashed all their energy as they bounded up the aisles. Shin’s choice of music—Goran Bregovic and Transglobal Underground—boosted the strange exuberance of the piece. While not a choreographic gem, No Comment was a tour de force for the performers.